After months of anticipation, the long-awaited first episode of Titans was released on the 12th of October. It’s the first original series to come out of the DC Universe streaming app, a service that gives its subscribers access to Warner Brothers extensive catalogue of DC Comics video content, as well as several live action original series’. (Currently, DC Universe is only available in the USA, Titans will be distributed worldwide by Netflix.)
As someone who grew up watching the 2003 cartoon before delving into the comics, I’ve kept a close eye on Titans since it was first announced. I was excited for it for a long time, but the trailer that was released at San Diego Comic Con in July left me feeling a bit flat. It was dark, angsty and included the now infamous line “F**k Batman”, which was uttered by Robin before he brutally takes down a group of thugs. However, I did feel that maybe there was a glimmer of potential behind what was clearly a rushed, poorly put together trailer.
So, the real question is: Is Titans as dark and angsty as it seemed to be? I’m happy to report that the answer is no.
Not to say that there aren’t moments where things do get dark and a little R Rated, such as the brutal fight that Robin (Brenton Thwaites) instigates halfway through the episode. He breaks bones and drags faces across glass, but all of this is forgivable because of how convincing Thwaites is in the role. This is not the boy wonder most people remember, this is someone who has been taken in and brutalised by the person that was supposed to keep him safe. His time with Batman has made him immune to the horrific acts he commits as Robin and that absolutely terrifies him. It’s an intriguing look at a character that’s usually depicted as being inherently good. Even the most parodied line from the trailer (F**k Batman!) makes for a great character moment in the context of the actual show.
Sprinkled throughout the episode are spots of humour that never feel out-of-place. All of the jokes feel completely natural, the delivery being one of the main things that helps them land. Honestly I was surprised at how much I found myself chuckling along with the characters, especially after how my worrying about the show possibly being too dark.
The plot of the episode is relatively standard for a pilot episode. We’re introduced to each character, there is a threat and the threat is resolved by the end of the fifty minutes. Although, the antagonist of this episode does seem to be hinting at where the rest of the first series will take the cast of characters. The series holds off on uniting all of the lead characters in the first episode, instead only allowing Robin and Rachel (Teagan Croft) to share the screen. As much as I’d love to have the Titans assemble by the end of the first episode, I understand that it’ll be much more satisfying if we see them come together after getting to know each of them individually.
All of the acting performances in the first episode are pretty spot on, the only one who leaves something tiny to be desired is Teagan Croft as Rachel. Although after reading up on Titans I found out this is Croft’s first TV job, so I’m more than willing to wait and see if she improves as she settles into the role. A special mention has to go to Anna Diop, who plays Kory Anders/Starfire with a massive amount of charisma and charm. By the end of episode one, I was fully invested in Starfire’s mission to remember who she is and felt myself eagerly waiting to see where she goes next. The music used for both her introduction scene and the emergence of her powers fit brilliantly, and I hope the 80’s pop usage continues whenever her character has a badass moment. (I also appreciated the subtle nod to the character’s bisexuality, which is skated over a lot in the comics.) Unfortunately Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) only appears in a short scene at the very end of the episode, which makes me think that he might not meet up with Rachel, Robin and Starfire until much later on in the season.
When several photos of Rachel, Beast Boy and Starfire in costume leaked earlier this year, the internet was unimpressed. The costumes looked homemade and nothing at all like the comics, which left me feeling a little disappointed. But I tried to remind myself that in instances like that, context really matters. Like with “F**k Batman”, I was proven wrong. Starfire’s nightclub attire and Rachel’s gothic outfit make perfect sense when seen in the world of the show, as the character’s haven’t yet transitioned into being superheroes. Titans is an origin story, so patience is key when it comes to things like their iconic outfits. The Special Effects are exactly what you’d expect from a tv show about superheroes, although I do appreciate their insistence on showing Beast Boy transforming back to his human form after shape-shifting into a tiger.
Overall, the first episode of Titans is a great start to the series. The characters, costumes and plotline are all used to great effect, I just hope that soon we get to see more of Starfire and Beast Boy. Any YA or Teen Titans cartoon fans should definitely check it out, as it’s a welcome take on an older property and I personally can’t wait to see what happens next.
Titans is available to stream on DC Universe in the US, and Netflix Worldwide.